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What Bill Belichick Means to Integrated Media Strategies

  |  February 9, 2012   |  Comments

The New England Patriots coach possesses five leadership traits that would help CMOs effectively manage integrated marketing strategies.

While the New England Patriots didn't win the Super Bowl this year, their success over the last decade is still remarkable. They've managed to make it to five of the last 11 Super Bowls. This fact is especially amazing considering that the NFL rules have been changed over the last 20 years precisely to manufacture "parity" among its teams. As the architect behind their success, Patriots' coach Bill Belichick's philosophy of coaching has some applications for leaders of integrated marketing strategies.

The growth of digital media distribution makes integrated marketing a necessity. As formerly "traditional" media channels like TV, radio, and magazines are increasingly distributed via digital means, marketers need to recognize that integration is a reality…today. As a great puppet master, Coach Belichick's genius is in putting the right pieces together and pulling the right strings to achieve the team's goals. It's that kind of leadership that a CMO needs when executing an integrated strategy.

Here's why:

Emphasizing Teamwork

Belichick's teams are noted for their lack of individual ego and focus on team. He demands that players subjugate their individual ambitions to the greater team goals.

And like Belichick, an integrated strategy requires those goals to be simple. In the case of integrated marketing, a CMO's goal should be achieving optimal ROI on marketing budget regardless of channel. These goals need to be communicated repeatedly and not simply verbally; creating incentives and bonuses based on achieving key metrics serves to reiterate the CMO's goals.

The integration of the media marketplace renders the siloed approach obsolete. A CMO executing an integrated strategy should view internal personnel and agency partners as the individual players. Proper analytics and tracking should give line of site not only into the success of an individual channel on its own but also on how each channel impacts the whole.

Valuing Versatility

Belichick coached teams are versatile. He expects his players to play multiple positions and his offense must shift to different styles when his opponent's defense dictates.

Marketers, too, should look for agencies with greater versatility and capabilities across multiple media channels. The hard part in media today is understanding and adapting to the audience. Agencies specializing in limited areas of media may have their role, but integration demands that marketing resources and budgets adapt to the audience. CMOs should look for agencies that can provide planning and buying services across multiple media so that resources can flow freely to follow how consumers consume media.

Recognizing Hidden Talent

Belichick is a great evaluator of talent (he picked up Tom Brady in the sixth round!) It was Belichick's insights into what makes a quarterback great that allowed him see what others didn't in Tom Brady.

The agencies you want on your team need to not only execute the media buys but they must provide consumer research, segmentation, and analytics skills to effectively measure each media's impact against overall business goals like ROI. Plus, marketers should expect their agencies cannot only attract new inquiries but also help deliver insights that will improve conversion to sale.

Understanding Motives

Properly aligning incentives to the greater team goals is the hallmark of the Belichick model.

Successfully managing an integrated marketing strategy requires a thorough understanding of what motivates the key players on the team. A CMO should consider precisely how each of his own team members and agencies are motivated and incentivized.

For instance, recently I heard from a VP of marketing who told me "I like my online agency and my TV agency. They both do a great job for us. But if I got an extra $10 million to spend on media I really wouldn't know which would get me the best return." In this scenario, each agency typically presents a very rosy picture that would justify its own "more" than fair share of that additional budget. An agency that can competently handle multiple media channels has a much greater incentive to help solve the issue of optimal media mix since they would have nothing to lose.

Promoting Consistency

Belichick is noted for his consistency. Whether it's week four against the Raiders or the week before the Super Bowl, the practice schedule remains the same: intense and focused.

The essence of an integrated marketing strategy is having consistency across all channels. Consolidating media agencies allows for greater consistency and continuity in achieving strategic goals.

By assigning all media responsibility to a single agency, sacred cows are eliminated. If an agency has nothing to lose by reporting that one media just doesn't deliver the impact to justify the expense, then you are on you path to achieving the optimal media mix. On the other hand, if telling the client that TV is not working means the agency loses a client, then it is unlikely that the CMO will hear that honest feedback from the agency.

Increasing media integration makes it hard to compensate multiple agencies on performance since each media may impact results of another. Bundling media buying to one, multi-disciplined agency, marketers gain the advantage of tying agency compensation to performance. The key is finding an agency that is skilled in multiple areas and can consistently deliver valuable insights.

But there are limits on how far to go with integration. Finding an agency that has the quantitative and analytics chops to execute a cross-media campaign does not mean they can also do right-brained activities like creative. Regardless of media integration, creative is likely best served with an agency specializing in creative…let's face it, Belichick doesn't have Tom Brady's kick!

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Gavin Ballas

Gavin Ballas is vice president of business development for MDC Partner's Integrated Media Solutions, an integrated direct response media agency. He has nearly 15 years of experience building direct response campaigns throughout online and offline media channels.

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